In the past, we've talked about the many benefits of exercise. It’s great for our cardiovascular system, it keeps our muscles strong & flexible and, for many of us, it provides a great opportunity to socialize. However, while we all know that exercise keeps us strong and healthy, some people believe that exercise can make us smarter too. Is it true? Does exercise really make us smarter? The short answer is…yes!
WHAT SMARTER REALLY MEANS: Okay, before you start rolling your eyes, let’s be clear, exercise does not raise your IQ. If you weren’t a genius before you started working out, you’re not likely to become one afterwards. That said, exercise does simulate our brains in ways that help us think more clearly and stay sharper longer – in other words, it helps us perform at our best longer than we might otherwise; which can certainly help us seem “smarter”. In fact, studies have shown that those who engage in regular aerobic exercise (unfortunately strength/resistance training doesn’t have the same effect) generally perform better on information processing and memory tests than those who don’t. So how does this work?
BDNF PROTIEN & “FEEL GOOD” HORMONES: First, aerobic exercise helps us stay calm and think more clearly. When we exercise, our body perceives our elevated heart rate as a response to stress or a form of “fight or flight” activity. To help protect our brain from this perceived stress, our body releases a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) along with various hormones. Together, they have a protective and restorative impact on our brain and cause us to feel more calm and more focused (euphoria or the “runners high” is also common). As a result, we’re able to think and communicate more clearly, problem solve more effectively and make better decisions; all of which makes us more effective/productive and makes us feel and appear “smarter”.
NEURAL STIMULATION & BRAIN MASS: In addition to releasing these protective “feel good” chemicals which makes us more productive, regular aerobic exercise actually helps improve our ability to learn, retain and recall information. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to brain which, in turn, results in reduced insulin resistance (a cause of brain cell degradation) and the release of chemicals that affect the health of existing brain cells and the growth of new ones. As a result, and as studies have shown, people who exercise regularly over an extended period of time (six months or more) actually have increased brain mass in those areas responsible for learning and memory. The result is that we’re able to be more effective/productive and we feel and appear “smarter”.
Getting regular aerobic exercise has always been considered important for keeping our body strong and healthy. However, we now know that it’s also a great way to keep ourselves calm and focused while also enhancing our learning and memory – something which is particularly important for those of us operating in competitive environments while facing the challenges that come with aging. If you’re concerned about staving off the effects of aging and need help with establishing a new exercise routine, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Remember, at Physiomed… Healthier Starts Here.